Remembering Senator Paul Wellstone (1944-2002)
On October 25, 2002, a shining light of Congress was extinguished. When Senator Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash with his wife, daughter, campaign workers, and pilots, a staunch defender of human rights at home and abroad was lost. Senator Wellstone consistently fought to protect the rights of the people of East Timor and Indonesia. He could always be counted on to sign a letter or cosponsor important legislation in support of justice and self-determination for East Timor or to oppose U.S. assistance to the brutal Indonesian military.
In July 1994, Senator Wellstone co-sponsored a ban on the sale of small arms to Indonesia. At the same time, he offered an amendment to assist human rights and environmental NGOs in Indonesia, saying, "I am particularly interested in ensuring that adequate funds be made available to organizations which monitor, and act to improve, humanitarian and environmental conditions in East Timor."
Speaking on the floor of the Senate just prior to the fall of Indonesian dictator Suharto in May 1998, Wellstone stated, "I don't know why the administration -- President Clinton, the administration, our Government…I don't know why we are not more insistent on these governments who attack, torture, rape, and murder their citizens to abide by elementary standards of decency…. Surely we can at least send a clear signal to the Suharto regime that we support democracy, that we support fair labor practices, that we support human rights, and that we will not stand by idly as this regime, the Suharto regime, continues to repress its citizens."
When the Clinton administration decided to go forward with the first joint military exercise with Indonesia following the 1999 razing of East Timor, Senator Wellstone said in July 2000, "Now is not the time to conduct joint exercises with the Indonesian military; now is the time to demand its accountability. To do otherwise is to tacitly condone its conduct." Earlier that year, Wellstone wrote to President Clinton, "Justice and accountability are important foundations for a new democracy in East Timor, as well as the democratization process in Indonesia. Human rights must be protected and international humanitarian law adhered to, not only in East Timor, but also as a means to preventing such atrocities in the future. Justice and accountability are also critical to reconciliation and healing in East Timor."
To fill the void left in the Senate is not possible. May Senator Wellstone's legacy of progressive politics, compassion, and genuine concern for all peoples of the world live on and inspire others. He will be sorely missed.
Senator Wellstone (1944-2002) on Indonesia and East Timor
February 13, 2001 - Senate Resolution on Int'l Tribunal for ET (co-sponsor)
October 27, 2000 - Senate letter on Indonesia, Timor
July 27, 2000 - Senator Wellstone statement: "Now is not the time to re-engage with the Indonesian military"
September 9, 1999 - Wellstone Calls for Halt of U.S. Trade Assistance to Indonesia
September 8 - 14, 1999 - Statements by Senator Wellstone on Senate floor
June 22, 1999 - Amendment in support of a peaceful process of self-determination in East Timor (co-sponsor)
April 12, 1999 - Congressional Letter to Albright on East Timor Massacre
March 1, 1999- U.S. Senators write Albright on E Timor
January 4, 1999 - U.S. Senators urge UN presence in E Timor
May 22, 1998 - Senate Resolution 237: Expressing the Sense of the Senate Regarding the Situation in Indonesia and East Timor (co-sponsor)
May 11, 1998 - Human Rights Abuses in East Timor
November 15, 1996 - Senators write Clinton on APEC 1996
October 20, 1995 - U.S. Senators Write Clinton on Suharto Visit
November 17 , 1993 - Letter to President Clinton on APEC and East Timot
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